HOUSING

35) The corner of Main Street and Dalmarnock Road as sketched by Small in 1884. This 18th century tenement remained until the 1890s when it was replaced by the splendid Bridgeton Cross Mansions.

 

Given Bridgeton and Dalmarnock's rural origins, it is not surprising to find that the earliest notable housing was that of the wealthier, land-owning classes and farmers. However, with the founding of the village and the growth of industry, houses for working people appeared in ever increasing numbers. McArthur's map of 1778 (see inside rear cover) shows the above building which was probably the first tenement to be built in the entire area.

By the 1830s Main Street had already been built upon both sides with 2 and 3 storey tenements occupied by weavers, printers and other tradesmen. It boasted two separate Irish communities - "Dublin Land" near Swan's Tavern and "Wee Belfast", some two storey buildings at Ann St (later Laird St) occupied by Northern Irish weavers.

 

36) This sketch appeared in "The Baillie" of 6th September, 1893 as "Picturesque Glasgow No 11 - Old Buildings at Bridgeton Cross." From the structure of the buildings and other factors it can be deduced that it is in fact a rear view of Small's sketch shown in photo 35. It illustrates the feature of early housing that access to floors above ground level was usually by means of open, rear staircases. The primitive external sinks were installed as the result of legislation in 1862 which required a water supply to be provided in all houses. This itself was the result of growing awareness of the need to deal with insanitary conditions in housing if the epidemics which ravaged Glasgow in the 19th century were to be controlled.

 

The Ordnance Survey of 1858 shows that most of Bridgeton and Mile End had been submerged beneath a sprawl of works and housing as Glasgow spread its land hungry interests into the surrounding suburbs. Looking east the land remained open. If one travelled out London Road from Barrowfield Toll only a few short streets led south to Barrowfield or Queen Mary's Farm, a vestige of the once widespread Barrowfield estate. From there until one reached the Water Works Road there were only a few houses known as Scotston and Newlands House.

 

37) This sketch was made c.1926 and is of John St Lane at its junction with John St ( which later was to be Tullis St). The church was known at that time as Greenhead United Free Church, The Lane was renamed as part of Landressy St and the houses replaced by Corporation tenement stock.

 

Turning south at Springbank Toll the lands of Springbank lay to the left. Beyond this was the beginnings of industrialisation with the Glasgow Water Works then Springfield Print & Dyeworks. Turning the dogleg to the right to approach Dalmarnock tollhouse, Springfield farm lay to the left. Turning back towards Bridgeton the countryside is left behind. Dalmarnock farm still stood behind the tollhouse but further along at Bartholomew St, Morgan's farm had disappeared beneath the Gas Works.

The strain upon existing housing stock and upon private builders to provide more accommodation was enormous. At this time neither central nor local government acknowledged a responsibility to provide housing. The situation led to gross overcrowding and conditions rapidly deteriorated with poor lighting, bad ventilation, totally inadequate water supplies, sewage and waste disposal. People crowded into all available spaces. Unsurprisingly, the city was ravaged by typhus and cholera epidemics. A four storey building off Dalmarnock Rd was used as a cholera hospital from the 1830s and Guthrie describes having seen the morning collection of those who had died during epidemics, sometimes as many as ten a day.

In the years 1872-76 a great many tenements were built and it was during this period that their long serried ranks became a familiar part of the landscape. Many of the rows of tenements in Dalmarnock were built then. This uniformity of tenements arose from the system of land control surviving from feudal times. In effect, the feudal superior of the land could impose any conditions he chose on the type of structure to be built upon the land he was feuing. These conditions became more elaborate in time until eventually they specified in a highly detailed manner the buildings known as tenements. Thus, builders of tenements had this uniformity imposed upon them and subsequently conformed to the design even when not compelled to do so.

 

38) Early 19th century working class housing at number 45, Reid St. Pressure for more dwellings led to the clearance of much of this type of housing to be replaced by the more familiar tenemental properties.

 

The tenement, as most people recognise it, refers to those substantial and well-built Victorian and post-Victorian structures with polished ashlar frontages of white or red stone which dominated the whole of Glasgow's urban housing well into the 1970s. The word itself is derived from the Latin "tenementum" which referred to a portion of land. As time passed it came to be applied not to the land but to the structure built upon it, and eventually to the particular type of multiple dwelling familiar to all Glaswegians.

The tradition of "high rise" living probably originated from the pressures and competition for land to build on within the city boundaries. There were many calls on its use - factories, workshops, railways, gas and electricity services, as well as housing. Houses were squeezed into the spaces remaining, and since they could not spread out with population increases, they rose higher.

 

39) An example of the later tenements which were built in the area. This building at 40 Reid St probably replaced buildings similar to those still to be seen at its gable end in this photograph.

 

Many of Bridgeton's thoroughfares were dominated by long, regular ranks of tenements, with the streets as valleys of activity between the high frontages. Vestiges of the imposing rows remain throughout the district, isolated structures standing proud or between newly built modern tenements, but some more extensive rows have been renovated and gleam red and white as originally built. Bridgeton Cross has retained most of its original late Victorian buildings.

The City Improvement Trust was established through the 1866 Act for the purpose of acquiring and demolishing the worst properties in the city, and to provide replacement housing for the previous inhabitants. The Trust was active in Bridgeton but it was always beset with financial difficulties in providing suitable housing at a cost which the people could afford. The failure of the City of Glasgow Bank in 1878 made the economic situation worse and building practically stopped for a time. However, recovery from the recession was fairly swift and the years 1882-1910 are regarded as the heyday of tenement building.

 

40) Early 19th century dwelling at 367, Dalmarnock Rd now occupied by East End Sawmills.

 

Most tenements were built by private builders. One notable Bridgeton builder was Duncan Fraser (after whom Fraser St is named). He was a clothier with a shop in Reid St who speculated in housing. Between 1859-1876 he had built an estimated 60 tenements in Bridgeton.

Several organisations attempted to provide decent accommodation for the working class at affordable rents with the Glasgow Workmen's Dwellings Company more successful than most. In 1892 the Company built George Court in Mile-End at the junction of Brook St and George (later Rogart) St. Atypical of the time was the Company's determination to provide a large, open courtyard for the occupiers' use.

Greenhead Court was built c.1900 at 41, Green (later Mackeith) St and was known locally as the "dwellings". The development offered not only decent homes but a range of innovatory facilities such as club and committee rooms, pram sheds and a playshed.

 

 

 

41) Greenhead Court from the north c.1900. An interesting feature of the older houses in this photograph are the pantiled roofs once so common.

 

The George Court site is now occupied by an extension of Anderson Tunnelling. Greenhead was taken down in 1971 and the land used for the building of Carmichael House old people's home.

 

42) George Court c.1900.

 

The following pages show some views of tenement lined streets surviving into the mid-1970s. The scenes have changed so much in the intervening years that updated photographs of the setting have been included for comparison.

 

- See Housing Gallery 1 (Comparative Views)

 

Very few dwellings from the earlier part of the 19th century have survived to the present day. With the enormous growth in the population of the whole city, housing the working class became the dominant occupation of house builders and earlier, smaller structures were replaced by more commodious buildings. However, the new houses were still interspersed between factories and workshops and conditions remained quite poor for ordinary people.

 

63) Oswald St (later Heron St) at its junction with London Road. This area has been landscaped and is known locally as Heron St park. Earlier this century when cattle and sheep were being driven to the market in Gallowgate from the East Kilbride farms, Oswald St formed part of the route taken. The animals would be brought over Dalmarnock Bridge, along Baltic St, Oswald St and up Brook St to the Gallowgate. More than once, the inhabitants of the tenements found an escapee cow taking refuge up the closes!

 

 

64) This sculpture is of a Phoenix, the mythical bird which is reborn from the ashes of its own destruction. It was made by Glasgow School of Art student Fiona Kerr in the summer of 1978 to represent the resurrection of the east end. The Phoenix was made from fibre-glass, surmounting a brick pedestal, with the support of the SDA. Sadly, it was blown over in the gales of February, 1989. It seems to have been the only free standing piece of sculpture in the whole east end outside of parks.

 

By the 1880s, the tenement had come to be regarded as synonymous with working class housing, but in the following years it came also to mean very high quality housing such as Bridgeton Cross Mansions. Living conditions continued to improve, for example in 1892 an Act required the compulsory provision of toilet facilities in all tenements. The result of this can be seen in some buildings where the necessary brick stack constructions were added to the rear of already existing buildings.

Several other features of the tenements' architecture are of particular interest. One of these is the "blind window". Examples can be seen on the tenements around Bridgeton Cross. These were not, as some suppose, windows which had been blocked up to avoid payment of a window tax. In fact, they were included in the facade where real windows were unnecessary to provide a balance and continuity of design. Fireplace openings and chimney vents in the exposed gables of tenements were provided so that when a builder was constructing a new, adjacent tenement, the gable ends of the already existing structures could be incorporated.

From the early 19th century tenements were built with white stone from local quarries but by 1890 the quality had deteriorated and alternative sources of stone were sought. Stone from further afield was brought to the city and thereby introduced a new aspect to the architecture, for this was red sandstone.

The common close entrance to the tenement could signify the quality of the building and residents. Examples of the "better class" closes can be found off Main St, with their tiled walls extending the full height of the building but most closes had whitewashed plasterwork or walls painted and stencilled, with pipeclayed edges to the stone steps.

 

65) This is the back-court view of Photo 56. Again, a rear staircase of the earlier housing is evident, as is the advancing state of dereliction.

 

Most homes in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock tenements were either "single-ends" (one apartment) or "room and kitchens" (two apartments). In the latter, the family usually just occupied the kitchen, keeping the room only for special occasions. Anyone wishing to see an example of a working class "single-end" should visit the excellent reconstruction in the Peoples' Palace Museum.

In the back-court, or "round the back", were the drying areas - if the pollution from the factories allowed their use - the midden and possibly a wash-house. During the Second World war bomb shelters were built in the ground enclosed by tenement blocks. Some remained into the 1970s. The new housing of Savoy St is built upon the site of such shelters. As with the roofs of the middens, and the innumerable brick walls, these shelters provided dens for generations of children to play in, filthy and dangerous as they had become.

 

66) Back-courts at 76, Dalmarnock Rd, with typical ash-pit or midden forming part of a complex which housed a wash-house. The tenements in the background are those in Acorn St. The brick stacks which housed the W.C.s were a later addition to the building as a result of 1890s legislation requiring their provision.

 

Traditional tenement building effectively ceased after 1910. Blame for this has been put on the Finance Act of that year which made their construction uneconomical, and this was probably a contributory factor. In fact, because of low wages many people simply could not afford to pay the rents being asked and, despite extensive overcrowding, many houses lay empty because people found it cheaper to live in lodgings. The failure of the private sector to provide the required housing was matched by the Corporation who in 1914 still only provided 1% of the population with houses.

The overall situation was exacerbated with the cessation of building during the First World War. There was practically no new housing constructed until the 1920s. Years of neglect before and during the war resulted in an even greater shortage of affordable accommodation suitable for habitation. A variety of post-war legislation encouraged local authorities to undertake building programmes.

 

67) Savoy Arcade leads from Main St to Savoy St. This is an example of a pend which allowed access by horse and carts from main streets to the small businesses The Arcade still serves as an access to Savoy St and is one of many pends still to be seen in tenement property.

 

By 1919 the Corporation had established a Housing Department, but it was not until the introduction of housing subsidies by the 1924 Labour Government that council house building began to take off. The low rent policy of successive local administrations was one of the reasons that council housing flourished. Owner occupation was severely restricted for the same reasons - the very low income of the population.

 

68) These tenements in Greenhead St at James St were built in 1865. The buildings are listed and form part of the Bridgeton & Dalmarnock Housing Association's renovation programme for the street. It is interesting to note that some of the kerbstones in Greenhead St still bear the inscription "Green Boundary", denoting where the Green ended.

 

From the 1920s the Corporation became increasingly involved in slum clearance and the provision of new houses, those built being semi-detached and 4-in-a-block cottage style. In the 1930s a switch to modern tenement style building was required to ensure low rents and to deal with the increased numbers to be housed. Again, war put an end to building in 1939, but afterwards the Corporation continued its policy of constructing housing schemes. This resulted in the massive peripheral schemes of Drumchapel, Pollok, Castlemilk and Easterhouse in the 1950s and the decantment of the Bridgeton people to the new estates. However, it was not simply a removal of people from the area. New building also took place within the Bridgeton e.g. Madras St, Reid St., Rumford St., and Springfield Rd. Within Bridgeton the Corporation replaced many sections of old tenemental property with new style 3 storey tenement blocks.

 

69) Inter-war tenements built by the Corporation as part of their programme of slum clearance and rehousing of the local population. The houses were acquired by the SSHA and renovated in the 1980s. This particular section of houses replaced older tenements such as those illustrated in photos 38 and 39.

 

The 1950s saw the idea of high flats strongly favoured as a continuation of the Scots tradition of high living. These flats were seen to be a partial solution to the housing problem and the shortage of land within the city suitable for building upon. Although the flats provided a greatly improved standard of accommodation, the many faults which are now well known eventually led to their discontinuance as an option. There are only two groups of high rise flats in the area. The blocks at Ruby St and Allan St were constructed in the late 1960s. Luckily, Bridgeton and Dalmarnock were not particularly suitable sites for such buildings due to the large number of old mine workings.

 

70) It has been claimed that the high flats which were built from the 1950s were an extension of the tenement tradition. It is possibly true that Glasgow people were more accepting of this type of new housing, because of the city's housing history. These flats were built on the site of the old tram depot in Ruby St in the late 1960s. Around their bases are recently built SSHA houses.

 

Even with the massive drive by the Corporation, the 1960s still experienced awful housing conditions. The advent of GEAR in May, 1976 saw a great fillip to the redevelopment of Bridgeton and Dalmarnock. Massive demolition took place in the following years. In the whole GEAR area dwellings were reduced from 28,500 in 1971 to 15,049 in 1981, and this was obvious in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock where great open tracts of land were created by the bulldozer. This latter fact, allied to the local authority's vastly curtailed house building programme, led to the situation where sites were made available for private sector building. This in turn meant that owner occupation of houses grew fairly rapidly. However, a number of agencies co-operated in the restructuring of Bridgeton's housing situation.

 

71) Demolition became an all too familiar sight in the 1970s. Above is a temporary survivor, the corner of Bernard St and Heron St.

 

In the late 1970s the District Council, the heirs of the Corporation, built some new housing in the Bernard St development and later was involved in joint projects with private developers. Much of the older housing remains Council stock, but a substantial amount of inter-war tenemental housing was transferred to the SSHA during GEAR.

As one of the participants in housing provision during and after GEAR the SSHA made a significant impact with their new building programme as well as in the renovation and modernisation of the inter-war stock it acquired from the GDC. This is apparent in extensive areas of Bridgeton and Dalmarnock. The SSHA scheme built in the 1980s to the east of Springfield Rd has been described as providing some of the "finest modern townscapes in the country." GEAR itself is commemorated in GEAR Terrace, Dalmarnock.

For almost the first time since 1910 private developers have been building houses for sale. One notable example of this is the extensive Bridgeton Green development of Lovell Homes fronting a major portion of the west side of Main St. The scheme's name preserves the memory of the village green. The building complex offers modern tenement type flats as well as terraced housing, and truly enhances the area. The site covers the ground once occupied by Swan's Tavern, the Bridgeton Tea Garden, both Dublin Land and Wee Belfast, and several mills. It was commenced in 1983 and nears completion in late 1989.

Included in Bridgeton Green is housing by both the SSHA and the Bridgeton & Dalmarnock Housing Association. This latter Association has been extensively involved in new building as well as the renovation of the older tenements. Included in its admirable work the Association has almost completely restored Greenhead St, the tenements of Bridgeton Cross itself, and the red stone tenements of Main St and Dalmarnock Road. In the gap sites of Main St caused by the demolition of aged properties, the Association has built new tenements, and at the corner of Dalmarnock Rd and Muslin St is an impressive award winning new building in variously coloured brickwork. There has even been an element of conversion of old properties for habitation, for example the transformation of the old Employment Exchange in Acorn St into flats by a local firm - a return to the days of local contractors speculating in building.

Although there remain problems with the housing stock, and there is continued debate about how housing tenure should be developed, there can be no doubt that conditions in Bridgeton's housing and environment have changed radically for the better. Fond memories of the crowded tenements of old and the community that gave them life cannot truly compensate for the hazards they bred. It is sad that many more of these familiar and loved structures could not have been saved, but modern Bridgeton does present a more green and open aspect than would have been thought possible a decade ago. It has shed more than a century of grime and returned to some of the more pleasant and less crowded conditions of earlier days.

The previous pages give some idea of the extent of the changes which have taken place over the past 15 years. The photographs in the next few pages were taken from the high flats at Ruby St and Allan St in 1974, and provide an "overall" reminder of the area's geography at that time.